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Did Kyle Orton Take Advantage of the Cowboys?

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Kyle Orton’s contract was originally a 3-year-contract at $3.5 million per season. The Cowboys played with the money, agreeing to give him about $5.9 million the first year - $5 million of which was a signing bonus. They paid him only $1.35 million last year. And then he was going to get the other $3.25 million this year.

Essentially, it was a 3 year deal with 2/3rds of the money paid in the first 2 years and the remaining 3rd paid in the last year.

In addition to the Original Structure, which pushed some of the Salary of the first two years into the Salary CAP of this coming season, the Cowboys restructured Orton’s deal twice to get more room under the Salary CAP.

In November 2012 the Cowboys asked Orton to restructure his deal because they were out of Salary CAP space, and they needed to sign some new defensive players due to injury. In what was a pure paperwork accounting ploy, they extended his contract to 5 years, but the last two years were automatically voided after this coming season.

Technically, the Cowboys added two more years of salary at $3.5 million per year - for a total 5 year deal at $17.5 million. But since the last two years automatically voided after the coming season, it was really still a 3 year deal at $10.5 million.

So, Orton was still on a 3 year deal, but for Salary CAP purposes, his bonus, which had been charged to the Salary CAP at $1.667 million per year, was now spread over 5 years at $1 million per year. The Cowboys used the extra $667K to sign some defensive players for Rob Ryan's defense. (They did the same deal with Doug Free in order to spread his bonuses over 5 years instead of the 3 years remaining on his 2011 contract - with two voidable years after next season at $8 million per season.)

In the original deal, Orton agreed to be paid $3.5 million per year. He collected $7.25 million over two years, which is in line with his original deal. The purpose of how the Cowboys structured his contract was to help them on the Salary CAP because, as we all know, they were really having Salary CAP issues the last two seasons.

Last season, the Cowboys once again asked Orton to take "Bonus" money up front in lieu of salary, and spread the savings over 4 years remaining on his bogus five-year-deal.

The supposed $3.4 million Orton might have had to pay back was ALL money he allowed the Cowboys to push into later years for Salary CAP reasons. But from an original agreement perspective, Orton got paid 2/3rds of the money for 2/3rds of his original 3 year deal.

It would have been unjust for the Cowboys to attempt to collect that Bonus money back, since the only reason it has not already been charged to the CAP was to allow the Cowboys to overspend the last two years. The Cowboys did the right thing by dropping what was essentially a bogus claim to getting money paid back to them. Technically, they had a legal right to it, but morally, it wasn't right.

THIS IS REALLY IMPORTANT:

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If the Cowboys had pursued getting paid back the money, when the only reason they had a legal right to it was because the player agreed to help them out on the salary CAP by the structure of the contract, it would have crippled them in all their future negotiations with other players on restructuring contracts to get Salary CAP relief.

Based on the Orton example, other players and their agents would have NO REASON to agree to restructure their salaries into bonuses spread out over several seasons. If players believed the Cowboys would pull a bait and switch by trying to get paid back for money the players already got paid, they would have to protect themselves from the Cowboys by keeping the money as salary to prohibit the Cowboys having a legal right to try to collect the money. Players would refuse to restructure.

That would severely hurt the Cowboys, and cause them not to have the ability to play around with the Salary CAP in the future. While sports reporters are mentally retarded when it comes to understanding math and accounting, you can be very sure that agents and players would notice that the Cowboys didn't treat Orton fairly.

Free Agents would refuse to sign with the Cowboys. Rookies would insist on higher salaries and lower signing bonuses. Drafted players would refuse to resign with them after their rookie contracts expired. And the Cowboys would become pariahs among NFL player agents. In short, it would have destroyed the Cowboys if they went after Orton's money - money that did not morally belong to them.

Stephen Jones and the Cowboys front office were smart enough not to do that.

The "stand-off" never became adversarial between the Cowboys and Orton. Simply put, the Cowboys never intended to go after that money because it would have hurt them more than Orton. They were just trying to get Orton to play this year because they genuinely believed the team would be better with him backing up Romo. Orton genuinely wanted to retire.

The "stand-off" was a media generated myth. And the supposed leverage the Cowboys had? Also a myth. The only reason it was reported that way is because most sports reporters are idiots when it comes to understanding contracts.

CONCLUSION

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Orton DID NOT screw over the Cowboys. He was paid 2/3rds of his contract value for 2/3rds of the work. Players get cut every year prior to the end of their contracts. And players retire every year prior to the end of their contracts.

Orton did nothing wrong by retiring a year early. And the Cowboys did nothing wrong by giving him time to change his mind. This was an amicable parting of the ways, and you shouldn't believe that either the Cowboys or Orton did anything wrong. Both parties handled themselves properly.

When Orton informed the Cowboys of his intentions to retire back in March, it allowed them to go out and sign two backup quarterbacks with NFL starting experience – Brandon Weeden and Caleb Hanie. The Cowboys will actually save money on the salary CAP by Orton’s retirement, since the price of Weeden and Hanie combined is less than the cost of Orton. Orton treated the Cowboys respectfully. He forfeits his claim on the final 1/3 of the money and the Cowboys don’t owe him anything more. He owes them nothing either.

Good Luck to Orton in his post-NFL life, and Go Cowboys.



Engineer, writer and private NFL analyst, he began developing his own statistical analysis program in 1998 to measure and predict the performance of NFL teams. Scott is also a self-taught expert on the NFL salary CAP, analyzing how Cowboys contracts affect the team this year and in future seasons. Mr. Harris' skill lies in digging inside the numbers to explain which statistical measurements matter, and which do not. Mr. Harris developed his skill at writing for his college newspaper, and had his own politically oriented blog for several years. A passionate fan of the Cowboys, Scott uses his skill with numbers and writing to provide a unique viewpoint of the Cowboys and the NFL as a whole. He is a native of the DFW metroplex and currently resides in Golden, Colorado designing environmental controls systems for data centers, high rise buildings, college campuses, and government bases.

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2 Comments
  • guest

    Nicely laid out from a cap analysis POV, which is more helpful than most other pieces being written which could explain WHY Orton would want to force this issue. If it’s a not a retirement and he still wants to play, it begs the question of why he wanted out of the final year, e.g. chance to sign as a starter elsewhere? Back to Chicago to back up Cutler until he inevitably gets hurt? Or, maybe he saw the addition of Linehan as the offensive play caller as the final cook that broke the kitchen? i.e. Orton no longer had a voice even in the QB team, since now completely downed out with the voices of Jason Garrett, Scott Linehan, Bill Callahan, Wade Wilson, and Tony Romo in the mix.  I don’t think Orton had a problem holding the clipboard for a final year at $3.5m, but he seemed to be effective in almost a QB coaching role as the backup. Now there’s no room for him to contribute in this mix and the team actually IS better off with low-cost rookie who can just watch and learn instead.

  • Dan Davis

    Cowboy fan here.

    This is a great article which the rest of the sports writing media entirely missed.

    Bravo.

Player News

Zack Martin, Xavier Woods Suffer Preseason Injuries, Cowboys Down 2 Starters

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Cowboys' Eyeing Training Camp To Extend Zack Martin's Contract

Last Saturday night didn't end well for the Dallas Cowboys, who saw multiple players go down throughout the game, most notably Zack Martin and Xavier Woods. Preseason injuries are always the more painful ones, and when we're talking about someone like Martin, it just makes it worse.

Martin suffered a knee injury and was ruled out after going down. ESPN's Todd Archer tweeted out that a source had claimed the injury was a hyper-extended left knee. This surely would be great news considering the fear right now is a season-ending injury.

Todd Archer on Twitter

A source said the initial diagnosis of Zack Martin is a hyperextended left knee, but he will undergo an MRI on Sunday. The Cowboys do not practice again until Monday and play Aug. 26 against the Arizona Cardinals. Depending on the severity of the... https://t.co/1MPbJfQph8

Zack is set to have an MRI on Sunday and the team is hopeful the injury isn't that serious. We probably won't see the All-Pro left guard return in the preseason but could see him back on the field as soon as September 9th when the Cowboys kick their season off at Carolina.

Besides Zack Martin being the best offensive guard in the NFL, the Cowboys' offensive line depth is definitely not good. If his injury proves to be worse than what the front office believes, this offense will have to play without arguably their best player.

As we nervously await more news on Martin's knee, there are more injured players to talk about.

Xavier Woods injured his hamstring as he made an effort to intercept the ball and was also ruled out for the game. We still don't know about the severity, but we do know it's the same hamstring that he dealt with last year.

Although Woods isn't anywhere near Zack Martin as a football player, his injury comes at the team's weakest position in depth. Jeff Heath, Kavon Frazier and Xavier Woods are the Cowboys' only legitimate safeties that will earn a roster spot.

If the hamstring injury is serious enough to keep him sidelined for multiple weeks, we could see the Cowboys getting outside help for the defensive backfield. Whether that means trading for Earl Thomas, some other safety or looking at the free agents available, I don't see the team going into the season with two safeties on the roster.

For now, we need to wait for more results regarding both of these players who will be detrimental to this team's success in 2018. The Cowboys suffered more injuries than these ones, though.

Saad Yousuf on Twitter

And the injuries continue... Jameill Showers is down on the Cowboys sideline with what looks like a knee injury. Still down. Duke Thomas Datone Jones Bo Scarbrough Xavier Woods and the big one, Zack Martin That's the injury list for the Cowboys tonight.

Datone Jones has been impressive during his stay in Dallas and is a quality DT and was ruled out for the game after getting tangled up with the Bengal's offensive line. Seventh-round draft pick Bo Scarbrough suffered a hip injury and is apparently not severe either.

Compared to Woods' and Martin's injuries, these ones won't keep Cowboys' fans up at night. However, hopefully they all turn out to be okay and ready to play as soon as possible. The team's starters make this team a legit threat in the NFC, but when it comes to depth, they're not in a good position.

Tell me what you think about "Zack Martin, Xavier Woods Suffer Preseason Injuries, Cowboys Down 2 Starters" in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!



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Game Notes

Sean’s Scout: Starting Front 7 Sets Tone Early, Cowboys Depth Falters in Loss to Bengals

Sean Martin

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Sean's Scout: Starting Front 7 Sets Tone Early, Cowboys Depth Falters in Loss to Bengals
(Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports)

The Dallas Cowboys are halfway through their 2018 preseason. Given the injuries they're left to deal with to Zack Martin, Xavier Woods, and Jameill Showers, the Cowboys were happy to see their first home game of the season come to an end when it did. Despite the 21-13 loss, the Cowboys starters made another strong impression before exiting for backups that once again failed to hold the lead.

This is a game I'm looking forward to getting another look at on film, but for now here are a few thoughts the first time through.

  • Rookie Connor Williams is still a work in progress at guard, as he'll get himself in trouble trying to catch rushers too often. 

This "catch blocking" is not uncommon for young offensive linemen, particularly ones learning a new position in preparation to start on the league's best front. On the Cowboys second drive of the game, Williams was caught back in his stance dealing with a twist from the Bengals with Left Tackle Tyron Smith.

The result of the play was an incomplete pass on third down from Dak Prescott. With Williams' footwork being as consistent as it has, I wouldn't worry too much about his upper body technique and strength improving greatly before week one of the regular season. Perhaps most importantly, Williams has looked smooth playing in space, something the Cowboys are prepared to ask the second round pick to do plenty of.

  • With Randy Gregory back in the lineup, the Cowboys potential to have a great rotation of defensive ends was on full display. 

The play that stands out is a tackle for loss by Safety Jeff Heath. On the play, Defensive End Tyrone Crawford did a great job setting the edge against the run, allowing Heath to come down and make the aggressive play.

Crawford created penetration against a tight end, staying disciplined in his rush lane from the right defensive end position to force the run outside.

On the Bengals' offensive series prior to this play by Heath, the Cowboys forced a punt following a missed Andy Dalton throw to A.J. Green. Despite not being tight in coverage on third down, Randy Gregory looked sharp coming off the edge to rush Dalton slightly.

With Taco Charlton also looking strong against the run, and rookie Dorance Armstrong continuing to develop as a weak side pass rusher, the possible match ups the Cowboys can create up front are seemingly endless.

Almost all of them will include last year's sack leader DeMarcus Lawrence, who was also disruptive on nearly every snap in this game.

  • Give credit to Joe Looney for handling the reps he did at center, but the backup interior lineman left a lot to be desired from this position. 

It should come as no surprise that Looney is a better guard than center, or that the Cowboys would look significantly worse at center without Travis Frederick in the lineup.

Overall, this was a disappointing game for the Cowboys thin offensive line depth. Paul Alexander's unit was unable to give quarterbacks Cooper Rush and Mike White a fair chance to settle into the game.

Looney's contact balance was suspect throughout the evening. Not the most powerful player, it's important for Looney to play with leverage and balance, which he did inconsistently last night.

Awaiting news on Zack Martin's first quarter injury still, the Cowboys should have already been concerned about their backups at tackle, with the guard position becoming a late concern now.

  • This is becoming the standard for Jaylon Smith, but I did not see one Bengals blocker effectively slow him down.

The power that Smith is playing with is an outstanding sign for continued success. Not only is Smith physically up for the challenge of starting at MIKE for the Cowboys, but he's physically dominating opponents with strength, speed, and range.

Whether he was running laterally and avoiding blocks with great awareness, or attacking the pocket, Smith's path to the ball was rarely impeded against the Bengals.

No matter who the Cowboys lined up in their front seven, the group did a great job setting a strong tone. Antwaun Woods was once again impressive at the one technique position inside, and Brian Price made a flash play from this position late in the game as well.

Thanks to Smith's gap shooting ability, and the Cowboys willingness so far this preseason to be creative with the Notre Dame product, the team's defensive tackles don't have to be asked to do too much. Holding their spots while drawing blockers will be more than enough to free Smith and the rest of the Cowboys linebackers to make plays.

Sean's Scout: Starting Front 7 Sets Tone Early, Cowboys Depth Falters in Loss to Bengals 1

Dallas Cowboys CBs Byron Jones, Chidobe Awuzie (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)

  • Chidobe Awuzie's interception in the second quarter is a reminder of just how high the second-year cornerback's potential is. 

Sure, Awuzie's length put him at an advantage to take a leap into year two once Kris Richard arrived as the Cowboys passing game coordinator.

Being productive on the ball, as Awuzie was here, is a testament to just how athletic he is as a boundary cornerback though. A beat late recognizing the ball coming his way, Awuzie remained in perfect position to get a hand on this pass.

Doing so with an explosive leap off the ground and full extension, Awuzie snagged the ball with one hand before bringing it into his body to secure another turnover for the Cowboys first team defense.

The Cowboys cornerback depth proved suspect beyond Awuzie and Byron Jones in this game, but being as good as they already are on the boundary is a huge step in the right direction for Rod Marinelli's defense.

I also thought that UDFA Tyree Robinson did a great job answering the bell at safety, showing up a number of times in run support with the Cowboys in desperate need of depth at his position.

It's in the slot, where Anthony Brown and Jourdan Lewis continue to feel the pressure of competition, that the Cowboys are struggling to find the right starter - even trying Lewis on the outside well into the fourth quarter of this game.

 ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

The Cowboys will remain in their home state to conclude their training camp and preseason. Needing to see more out of their second and third team, practices will resume at The Star on Monday before another preseason game at AT&T Stadium.

This time, it will be the Arizona Cardinals coming in for a Sunday Night Football tune up. The Cowboys starters could very well see even more playing time than they have through the first two weeks, giving them a better chance of sustaining success and coming away with a preseason win.

Tell us what you think about "Sean’s Scout: Starting Front 7 Sets Tone Early, Cowboys Depth Falters in Loss to Bengals" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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Game Notes

CIN 21, DAL 14: Dak Prescott Continues Strong Preseason in Loss

Jess Haynie

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Dak Prescott, Bengals

The games may not count yet, but Dak Prescott looks ready for the 2018 season. The Dallas Cowboys quarterback continued his strong preseason play in the team's 21-13 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.

Prescott played three series, going 10/15 for 86 yards and a touchdown. He got the offense out of trouble a few times with his feet, avoiding sacks and ultimately getting the scoring pass off on a redzone scramble.

Dak's strong play has coincided with shutdown performances from the starting defense. The Cowboys' first-team defenders have yet to allow a score in two preseason games. Tonight, the Bengals were forced into four punts and two turnovers on their first-half possessions.

Overall, the Cowboys are a combined 24-7 in the first halves of their first two preseason contests.

The second half has been the problem, and for two weeks now Dallas' reserves have squandered halftime leads and given up losses. Thankfully, most of the responsible players will not be on the final 53-man roster.

Other Notes

  • There were several concerning injuries for the Cowboys tonight. None was scarier than when All-Pro guard Zack Martin went out with a knee injury, but it does not appear to have been serious. Starting defensive backs Byron Jones and Xavier Woods also got banged up; Byron returned to the game but Woods did not. Defensive lineman Datone Jones also left with a knee injury.
  • Even more concerning was the play of the second-team offensive line. Chaz Green was typically awful, but we also saw swing tackle Cam Fleming struggling and just an overall lack of protection for the backups quarterbacks. Green got benched in the second half and may have finally played his way off the team.
  • Credit to Terrance Williams for getting open in the endzone to give Dak Prescott a receiver for the touchdown throw. Even with his warts, Williams' two years of experience playing with Dak can't be ignored in deciding who makes the team.
  • Tight end Blake Jarwin continues to run with the starters on offense and may have quietly taken the job away from Geoff Swaim.
  • Darius Jackson took advantage of some extra playing time tonight after Bo Scarbrough left with a hip injury. He broke off a few nice runs to amass 42 yards on just six carries, plus had four receptions.
  • We finally get to see Dan Bailey kick a field goal again, and it was an easy 35-yarder with no issues.
  • Shout out to Chidobe Awuzie for one of the pretty interceptions that a Cowboys DB has made in some time. Awuzie had to bend like Beckham (Odell, that is) to get a hand on the ball, then tipped it to himself for the pick.
  • Preseason fun continues for the Cowboys next Sunday when they host the Arizona Cardinals on NBC's Sunday Night Football.



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